In ancient pastime, Play Whe was known as Chinapoo; a numbers game played by persons who where influenced by intutition , superstition, dreams and caprice.
Brought to Trinidad by Chinese immigrants, Play Whe was traditionally called "Whe Whe".
No longer in its original form, it has been creolised, acquiring words (marks) like Jamette (#16 : Low Class Man or Woman), Crapaud (#13 Frog), Corbeau (#11: Vulture), Coco Bay (#24: Eye Infection ro Leprosy, from the name of the bay at Chacachacare where there was once a leper colony).It has retained one Chinese word, albeit corrupted, 'Tie Pin', correctly T'ai P'ing (#12: Heavenly Kingdom).
The Symbol of Play Whe is a drawing of the Chinaman jumbie, or Chinapoo.
His anatomy is divided into some 36 segments, Each marked with either mark, partner or spirit numbers, depending on the chart.
In Beyond A Boundary CI.R. James described how the Chinese immigrant worked his way from clerk in a shop to eventually owning it.
"This man, after about fifteen years, would be seized with a passion for cricket. He did not play it himself but he sponsored the local village team". He "godfathered poor boys who could play" and on the day of the match "you could see him surrounded by the locals, following every ball with a passionate intensity that he gave only to his business."
What James did not realize was that he had probably also wagered his business on the match, for despite their forays into the sporting world, the true Chinese recreation, which they sometimes carried to the point of obsession, was gambling, starting with whe whe, the numbers game of dreams.
It was based on the numbers or "marks" I to 36, each representing a particular symbol such as centipede ( 1 ), old lady (2), carriage (3) and so forth. Each mark has an affinity with a "partner" and some with a "spirit".
So the partner of 1 is 5 (parson man) and its spirit is 4 (dead man).
Players chose a mark on which to bet through a range of mystical methods, including body and numerical charts, dreams, unexpected events and idiosyncratic rules of interpreting these. A dream with an airplane would indicate 3 (carriage) , but there was considerably room for ambiguity. The "banker" secretly chose winning marks with the use of a Chinese chart, which was jealously guarded. It was then communicated to the players - that is, the mark was bus' -on a roll ot paper suspended from a roof or tree. A mark could not be played twice the same day.
Marks were bus' twice every day of the week, generally at midday and 4 pm, at secret locations called a "turf." Bets initially ranged from I to 30 cents and the odds varied according to the banker's resources.
It was a business and as such bankers had to please their clientele, helping out people in need and distributing drinks at Christmas.
|2||right underarm||old lady|
|4||right upperarm||dead man|
|5||left ribs||parson man|
|11||left upper arm||corbeau|
|12||right ear||king (ti pan)|
|13||right thigh||crapeaud frog|
|14||left ear||money (money ears)|
|15||right foot||sick woman|
|18||right wraist||water boat|
|24||right calf||queen (cocobey, cold or sores on the body)|
|25||left calf||morocoy tortoise|
|27||left wrist||little snake|
|28||right hand||red fish|
|29||left toes||opium man|
|30||right lower arm||house cat|
|31||left knee||parson wife|
|32||genitals||shrimps (loloman's penis)|
|34||left back||blind man|
|35||right knee||big snake|
|36||right hip||donkey (cat pan, anything used as bidet)|
|1-16-29||1 Centipede (bar), 16 Jamette, 29 Opium Man (drunkard)||Drunk man with jamette at a bar.|
|2-17-30||2 Old Lady, 17 Pigeon (young girl), 30 House Cat (house)||Old lady living with young girl in a house.|
|3-18-31||3 Carriage (hearse), 18 Water Boat (coffin/hole), 31 Parson Wife (praying)||A funeral. Only the dead person is missing.|
|4-19-32||4 Dead Man, 19 Horse (danger), 32 Shrimps (bullet)||A shootout ending in death.|
|5-20-33||5 Parson Man, 20 Dog (bandit), 33 Spider (money)||The parson earns money from funerals.|
|6-21-34||6 Belly (hole), 21 Mouth (hole), 34 Blind Man (cemetery)||The dead is about to be buried.|
|7-22-35||7 Hog, 22 Rat, 35 Big Snake||Big snake looking for food: rat and hog.|
|8-23-36||8 Tiger (quarrelling), 23 House, 26 Donkey||Quarrelling going on in a house, behaving like a jack-ass.|
|9-24-1||9 Cattle (milk), 24 Queen, 1 Centipede (light)||Queen/mother in the limelight.|
|10-25-2||10 Monkey (boy child), 25 Morocoy (fire), 2 Old Lady||Quarrelling with mischievous boy child.|
|11-26-3||11 Corbeau, 26 Fowl, 3 Carriage (egg)||Birds laying eggs.|
|12-27-4||12 King (saga), 27 Little Snake (road), 4 Dead Man||A sweetman is a dead man walking.|
|13-28-5||13 Crapaud (girl child), 28 Red Fish (receiving gift), 5 Parson Man||Parson in a christening, receiving gift for the child.|
|14-29-6||14 Money, 29 Opium Man (drunkard), 6 Belly (hole)||Drunk man wasting his money.|
|15-30-7||15 Sick Woman (pregnant woman), 30 House Cat (crying), 7 Hog (old man)||Woman crying. She's pregnant for an older man.|
|16-31-8||16 Jamette, 31 Parson Wife (big jamette), 8 Tiger (bad/quarrelling)||Two bad jamettes in a showdown.|
|17-32-9||17 Pigeon (young girl), 32 Shrimps, 9 Cattle (milk)||Promiscuous, well-endowed girl.|
|18-33-10||18 Water boat (river), 33 Spider (net, crab, shrimp), 10 Monkey (boy child)||Boy playing by the river, catching crab and shrimp.|
|19-34-11||19 Horse, 34 Blind Man (visitor), 11 Corbeau (police)||Policeman on top horse, controlling the crowd.|
|20-35-12||20 Dog, 35 Big Snake (road), 12 King (inspector, doctor)||Big man walking his dog on the road.|
|21-36-13||21 Mouth (talking), 36 donkey (laughing), 13 Crapaud (girl child)||Girl child talking and laughing her head off.|
|22-1-14||22 Rat (thief), 1 Centipede (small gun, knife, stick), 14 Money||Money thief.|
|23-2-15||23 House (hospital), 2 Old Lady, 15 Sick Woman||Sick old woman in the hospital.|
|24-3-16||24 Queen, 2 Carriage (car), 16 Jamette||Big time jamette in a fancy car.|
|25-4-17||25 Morocoy (fire), 4 Dead Man (coffin), 17 Pigeon (crowd)||Crowd at a cremation.|
|26-5-18||26 Fowl (priest), 5 Parson Man, 18 Water Boat||Priests on a journey.|
|27-6-19||27 Little Snake, 6 Belly (hole), 19 Horse (danger)||Horsewhip snake hiding in a hole.|
|28-7-20||28 Red Fish (drinking rum), 7 Hog (sick/full bag), 20 Dog (boy child)||Young man is drunk.|
|29-8-21||29 Opium Man (drunkard), 8 Tiger ( quarrelling, temper), 21 Mouth||Drunk man with a foul mouth.|
|30-9-22||30 House Cat, 9 Cattle (meat, milk), 22 Rat||Rat and cat stealing food: meat and milk.|
|31-10-23||31 Parson Wife (jamette), 10 Monkey (boy child), 23 House||Big jamette with young man inside a house.|
|32-11-24||32 Shrimps (male genitals), 11 Corbeau (pants), 24 Queen||High society woman having an affair.|
|33-12-25||33 Spider (bed), 12 King (saga boy), 25 Morocoy (fire)||Sweetman hot like fire in bed.|
|34-13-26||34 Blind Man, 13 Crapaud (hiding), 26 Fowl (crowd)||Blind man peeping at crowd, pretending to be blind.|
|35-14-27||35 Big Snake (long road), 14 Money, 27 Little Snake (short road)||Money in the road.|
|36-15-28||36 Donkey (female genitals), 15 Sick Woman, 28 Red Fish (blood)||Menstruating woman.|
whe-whe (wey-wey) ji'z/ [wewe] n (Trin) A privately run lottery in which any of 36 symbols or 'marks' are bought on impulse (often from dreams or superstitions); a 'banker' keeps the secret winning mark upon which when revealed, payment is made.